By Rachel Melikian
The Journey to “Gate to Heaven”
Movies, politics, culture, and religion each have a different role in highlighting the marvel of nature, showing the potential for its destruction, and bringing us close to the gates of heaven to deliver a message of peace.
“Growing up in a war zone, my aim is to preach peace in our region through my films,” said two-time international award-winning director, Jivan Avetisyan. His third feature film, “Gate to Heaven,” is co-produced with production companies from Germany, Lithuania and Armenia, and features cast members from those nations as well as France. The film “Gate to Heaven” takes place in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) in April 2016 during the most aggressive four days war since the ceasefire in 1994. It also includes a flashback to 1992, when the Armenian village of Talish fell.
The movie follows a German military photojournalist, Robert, who for the first time since its fall, returns to Talish in 2016. It focuses on the relationship between Robert and a young local Armenian opera singer, Sophia. Sophia’s father, another photojournalist, went missing during the conflict in 1992, while Robert claimed credit for his work. Through this relationship, Robert is forced to reconcile with the choices of his past, and before the majesty of Hunot Gorge (The “Gate to Heaven”), he feels compelled to bring peace to his soul, by returning what he had appropriated and confessing to his wrongdoings.
The film shows how natural beauty can inspire us to mend what is broken and return what has been wrongfully withheld. As Artsakh remains embattled by regional conflict, “Gate to Heaven,” delivers a powerful message of peace.
The exclusive Red Carpet event featured the 2014 Miss Europe Globe Contest third-runner up and model Naira Zakarayan, the leading actors Tatiana Spivakova from Paris, Richard Sammel from Germany, and Sos Janibekyan from Armenia, and the international cast and the crew. There was also a range of dignitaries and political leaders of Armenia, including the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Yerevan.
The film “Gate to Heaven” was featured on Oct. 17, in Yerevan, Armenia as part of the forum of the Aurora Awakening Humanitarian Award. George Clooney, Oscar-winning actor and co-chair has been a part of the Aurora Award since its inception and presented the Aurora laureate in 2016.
Then a couple of days later on Oct. 19, “Gate to Heaven” premiered in Artsakh and the crew was hosted by the State Minister of Artsakh Republic. This is where the film was shot, in the director’s childhood village, Khatchmatch. It is in Artsakh that Avetisyan and his ancestors lived for hundreds of years. This is where seven to 10 generations of the director’s ancestors rest in peace. He wants to share this world with the American public. As Avetisyan says, “People need to understand what war is, with all of its consequences. More importantly, they need to understand what love, loyalty or disloyalty is during [the] war.”
“Gate to Heaven” will be screened internationally and at film festivals around the world. It will feature in Los Angeles this March 2020 and will screen at all Pacific Theaters.
Its Los Angeles premiere will be at the Alex Theatre Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Glendale and the following week Thursday and Friday, March 26 and 27 at the Americana at Brand in Glendale.
Finding Peace at the “Gate to Heaven” in Artsakh
Anyone looking for peace in a natural setting should visit Artsakh which is like a paradise and the crevice of the Hunot Gorge is the Gateway to Heaven. This paradise of Armenia is welcoming to everyone, whether to visit it or trace the footsteps of the famous movie “Gate to Heaven” and simply find peace within yourself. This is where the leading actor in “Gate to Heaven,” Richard Sammel found peace. Director Jivan Avetisyan adds “It’s important for people to understand what the gate to heaven represents for him/her in life.”
Films by Jivan Avetisyan
Avetisyan has also directed other movies about Artsakh. “Tevanik” has been screened in more than 25 countries, translated into nine languages, shown at many film festivals, and won many honorary awards.
“The Last Inhabitant,” another movie about Artsakh, is included at the Cannes International Film Festival “Marche du Film”; at the 20th Shanghai International Film Festival’s “Panorama” program; and at the Venice International Film Festival-Venice Production Bridge program. It has also been selected for competition at the Scandinavian International Film Festival in Helsinki, Finland.
His previous two movies are still being screened. His short film “Broken Childhood,” which is also about Artsakh is on YouTube.
“Tevanik” has remained people’s favorite, according to the director because it is about children who lost their mother and father during the war. Their intimate and emotional story in the film pulls people’s heartstrings.
“Gate to Heaven” is Avetisyan’s third feature film. Director Jivan Avetisyan is confident that the “Gate to Heaven” will have lots of success in the US because it’s in English and has international cast. The story is a melodrama about love, disappointments in love, and embattlement of the war.
“Revival” will be Avetisyan’s fourth feature film and is projected for production in Spring 2021. For now, “Gate to Heaven” is coming soon to Pacific Theatres.
Hot From Presses
Director Jivan Avetisyan has been invited to attend the International Berlinale Talents Film Festival in Berlin, Germany in recognition of his movie “Gate to Heaven”, in February 2020. This is a very prestigious invitation because out of 3,400 applicants from 134 countries, only a very few were selected. As someone who recognized very early on that this movie was important for Armenians and the telling of the Armenian this recognition reconfirms my earlier conclusions.
Rachel Melikian is the former GCC Woman of the Year.